August 7th, 2013 | Harrietville, Photos, Poems for adults, Victorian alps

I always used to think of the town of Harrietville as nothing more than the last stop-off before the climb to Mount Hotham.

In recent years, though, I have come to appreciate the town for itself. Not only is it exquisitely beautiful, but it has a fascinating history. The surrounding hills are littered with abandoned gold mines – as well as the occasional one that is still working.

It strikes me as odd that we now hail the mountain cattlemen as cultural icons, yet the mining history of the Victorian alps is all but forgotten.

As an old mining surveyor, O. C. Smith, said to me many years ago, “There’s nowhere that the cattlemen went on a horse that I didn’t go on foot!”

I took these photos while strolling around Harrietville one Sunday morning a couple of years ago.

Harrietville 1 copy

Harrietville 2 copy

This is definitely the prettiest house in Harrietville.

Harrietville 11 copy

I love the colours in this photo.

Harietville 6 copy

This is pretty good, too.

Harrietville has a great museum, curated by the legendary Ian Stapleton. It was Ian who founded the children’s adventure camps Mittagundi and Wollangarra. More recently, he has written and published a series of books based on his interviews with high country old-timers and pioneers.

Museum 1 copy

Museum 7 copy

Museum 8 copy

This poem about Mick Dougherty, who drove the coach between Bright and Omeo (and over Mount Hotham) in the 19th century, is based on information taken from Ian Stapleton’s book “Hairy-chested History”.

Mick Dougherty

Mick Dougherty rode the coach from Bright to Omeo.
He laughed and smiled when the sun was warm, he shivered in the snow.
Mick Dougherty rode the coach from Omeo to Bright.
Either way, he stayed at Mt. St. Bernard’s for the night.

At 9am on a Tuesday morn he’d head for Omeo.
At 7am on a Thursday morn back home to Bright he’d go.
In the days when forty shillings a week was all that a man could earn,
It was thirty five shillings to go one way, or sixty shillings return.

Mick Dougherty told a joke as only the Irish can,
And always, if anything seemed to go wrong, it was simply a part of his plan.
With his clear blue eyes, and his fund of yarns, he always took great pains
To maintain his reputation as the driver that entertains!

Mick Dougherty knew that road as well as the back of his hand.
He trained his horses expertly to answer his every command.
He never had an accident, he knew the route so well.
He knew just when to slow right down…and when to race like hell.

Mick looked after the ladies well. Whenever a bend was tight,
He’d crack a joke, or tell a yarn, to keep them feeling right.
He knew a day inside a coach would test endurance powers.
They couldn’t powder their noses, but they could pick lots of flowers.

Mick moved to Mt. Buffalo, to service the new Chalet.
It meant a bright new uniform, and probably more pay.
Alas, he broke his ankle. It left him in great pain,
And Mick Dougherty, coachman, never drove a coach again.

Mick looked after the donkeys. Some said it was a shame
To see him peter out like this, when he’d been at the top of the game,
But Dougherty loved the donkeys. His work he did endorse.
He said he liked them better than he’d ever liked a horse.

Mick died down in Melbourne. He had been to see the Cup.
He’d owned a horse called “Nightgown”. It was easy to pull up.
Mick Dougherty drove the coach. He mastered every trick.
When you drive past Blowhard next, spare a thought for Mick.

© Stephen Whiteside 04.07.07